The internet is evolving so quickly, that no one company completely understands or has the expertise or time to master the highly-complex digital landscape. There was once a time when having an HTML website and a Facebook page was good enough. But now there are a million things one must do digitally to even be competitive. It is an endless list and it is up to the business itself to prioritize which digital tasks must be done first.
Businesses should not look to large marketing agencies that have been around since the dawn of time. They will tell you the age-old techniques they used when people still read print newspapers and when people still sent email forwards to put out information to their friends and family. Instead, businesses should look for companies and people with innovative ideas on how to reach customers in a new, dynamic way. Things are changing, and companies that get that will be able to survive along side those changes.
So this brings us to the point of the article. What are your competitors doing that you aren’t? There are a lot of things. And many of your competitors won’t broadcast them to you. So I posting some possible ideas here that I have seen be successful with our clients and with our clients’ competitors.
They Are Growing Audiences Continually
Take a look at some of the bigger companies in your industry. They are growing their Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, email lists and others to thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of followers. Growing your audience gives your company the RIGHT to talk to someone. Audiences are an asset, that can be harnessed when you want to put out a press release, when you want to announce a new product, when you want to leverage their buying power during bad economic times, or just when you want to engage with your customers. Audiences are critical. Large highly targeted audiences are no longer a nice-to-have, they are a necessity. And your competitors are growing their audiences each and every day by the thousands.
They Are Collecting and Analyzing Data
Your competitors are collecting data on you, other companies in their industry, and on their customers. They have executive level dashboards that tell them what is going on across their industry in an easy to read format, who is being engaged on social media, who is ranked high in Google and for what keywords, who is buying ads on what platforms, and a slew of other data points. They know the age, sex, zip code, interests, and buying habits of their customers, prospects, and engagers. On top of that, they are using this data to make sound business decisions and marketing decisions. They know their ROI (return on investment) for a certain kind of marketing spend and they know their rates (CPM, CTR, CPC) on all the marketing platforms. They know their web traffic stats and which sites are referring them. If your company does not know these data points, it may be a good idea to learn it.
They are Building Predictable Models
Your competitors have taken all of the data they have collected, paid a marketing firm or a data science firm, and have several models that tell them when, what, where, and how to sell something for the biggest bang for the buck. They know how many catalogs to send to get a wealthy father of 3 to buy XYZ. They can predict how much they will make monthly when they spend a certain amount for a specific product. This is because they have predictive models that allow them to plug in the data and output a prediction. It isn’t always 100% accurate, but it is a lot better at helping executives make decisions than the “finger in the air method” or the “hunch method”. Chances are small and medium size companies are not building models yet, but they should be. It is the way of the future that works and will help you overcome your competition.
They are Trolling You and Hurting Your Reputation
Whether knowingly or not, they are going on social media, review websites, and forums talking about your product or service in a negative way. They build complete websites designed to look like third party objective review sites that say their product is either better than yours, or they leave your product off the lists completely. They are going on Yelp, Foursquare, Google Local, and Facebook leaving a 1 star rating with some snide remark. They thumbs up all the negative comments left by someone, or they make a negative comment themselves. Sometimes it is a paid staff that does this, sometimes it is employees of a competitor that are mad they are losing sales to you, sometimes it is a disgruntled ex employee or a ticked off customer who didn’t like the way a customer service rep of yours talked to them, and sometimes it is the owner of the company talking bad about you indirectly or directly. Not saying that you need to do these things, but your company should empower your employees to defend you on these sites and there should be an environment that makes it easier for customers and employees help your reputation against the attacks of a competitor. Of course marketing companies like mine can help with online reputation management as well. There are tricks of the trade that need not be mentioned here, but something can always be done to help your particular situation.
They Are Part of the Social Conversation About Seemingly Unrelated Topics
Scroll through some of the posts of successful companies on Facebook. They are a part of the political conversation. This is in part because they want to push an agenda that helps set the conditions for their industry. But also because taking a stand on an issue generates buzz and PR. One must be careful not to undermine their brand or business model by alienating too many people, but being political or commenting on newsworthy topics is now an accepted practice. And with the 24 news cycle, people will forgive you if there is something they disagree with. A couple of recent examples are when Mark Zuckerburg commented on internet privacy, or when Kroger took a stand on the 2nd Amendment, or when Mark Cuban commented on tax inversions. Sometimes these things generate new customers, followers, and buzz and work out really well. Your competitors know which news, current events, and political topics they want to engage on, and are doing it.
They Are Hiring Better People Because of Digital Solutions
Recruiting has gotten highly sophisticated and fragmented these days. If your company isn’t recruiting across a wide range of websites and job boards, you could be missing some great candidates. The data suggests that a lower barrier of entry when hiring means that you will get a wider candidate pool. Companies that take advantage of the 1 click hiring processes out there like Zip Recruiter and LinkedIn, instead of making people fill out forms and forms of data, are getting more qualified candidates. Companies that are paying for executive search firms and paying for recruiting services are getting better candidates. If your company is still recruiting the old fashion word-of-mouth way, it may be time to think digitally and open up the pool to the rest of the nation and the world, because your competitors sure are.
They Are Raising More Capital
Competitors are taking full advantage of the digital space to raise money for projects, research and development, and expansion. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and other crowdfunding sites are opening companies’ access to capital. Then you have LinkedIn, Angelist, and Crunchbase that help businesses and start ups link up with qualified investors. It truly is a dynamic space out there and if the trip to the local bank is all a company is doing to fund an expansion, they are missing out on this critical component of generating capital. Competitors that do this are getting all of the money, instead of sharing some of that market share with you.
They Are Everywhere Digitally
Any successful brand, company, or public figure goes to the places where their clients, customers, and supporters hang out. In the digital space, these different social sites, blogs, websites, and forums are just like a “room” or a “place” where a potential supporter spends some or a lot of their time. It is important for companies to be present on the 30-40 places that matter. Not only that, it is important to have some level of engagement on those sites, don’t just leave them stagnant. Competitors are doing it. Every industry I have evaluated has a handful of companies that dominate the entire social and web space. And it isn’t always the Fortune 500 or 100 companies. Sometimes it is just a tech-savvy marketing department or a hired marketing firm that has done it for them. This is something that needs to be considered.
They are Generating Constant Content
Videos, images, posts, and articles are constantly flowing throughout their website and social space. They are considered the subject matter experts on whatever they are talking about, and naturally people want to buy from them. They give you free advice or make you laugh or impress you, so you go to their website and see what it is they do. They have a system and it is like a well-oiled machine. They have a video person to film and edit videos, they have a photographer to take pictures, they have writers and editors to write content. They have graphic designers and Photoshop experts to make memes and logos. They either have a massive staff of 10-50 people handling their content or they have outsourced it to a marketing firm. Either way, they are winning and dominating and will continue to dominate because of the widely fragmented social and content space.
They Understand Proprietary Marketing Techniques
There are about 20 or so proprietary marketing techniques that just aren’t written about. Companies that don’t have an experienced digital marketer on staff or have not hired a marketing firm just won’t get close to what these 20 untold techniques are. But rest assured, somebody is using them and they are running circles around your company in terms of marketing ROI, reach, engagement, and lead generation. It is important to seek out people that know what they are doing and hire them as a consultant or hire them to actually perform these tasks for you so you can beat your competitors.
They Have Gone Mobile
Their website is mobile friendly aka “responsive”. Their contests and landing pages are mobile friendly. They may have a mobile ap so users can engage with them separately from the rest of the web, while gathering useful data on their users, and while sending push notifications at key times or when their customers are nearby. They are targeting mobile users with ads. They send out mobile-friendly coupons and tickets. They are completely there while others are nowhere to be found. Is your website mobile friendly or was it made 10 years ago before mobile devices were as prevalent?
Please feel free to reach out to me or comment below if you want to talk more about these topics.
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